Interview With Ed Edwards

From the interview with Ed Edwards of Port Townsend conducted by Teddy Clark at the Fort Worden History Center on March 6, 2003. Mr. Edwards’ parents worked at the Fort Worden Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center as Cottage Parents. The family lived at the Fort from the time Mr. Edwards was in 4th grade until the Center closed.

Edited transcripts and verbatim recordings of this and all interviews conducted for the Fort Worden Oral History Program are available at a nominal fee to cover duplicating and shipping. Inquire at or 360.344.4481 for details.

About his parents’ duties as Cottage Parents:
“ I believe that they would just go in and just supervise the kids in their daytime activities– to have a supervisor there to make sure that there were no fights, that their rooms got cleaned, that they made it to the meals, went to school, that type of stuff.”

About interaction with the residents:
“ We played some sports against them but not to the point where we would know them individually. Eventually, kids would leave the Fort and go to school in Port Townsend. Not a bunch of them but some of them would end up finding homes in town and stay. Eventually I met a couple of them, played ball against some kids who would move from Fort Worden up to Port Angeles or Sequim and then we would end up competing with them but no, the kids who were here for treatment were separated from us other than for organized activities.”

About what it was like to move to Fort Worden and what kids did for fun:
“ We moved from a rural setting. We lived in Toledo and my dad worked in the woods and my mom didn’t work. A very small house, we had an outhouse. We moved all of a sudden into a big two story house with two bathrooms and four bedrooms– a lot of room. I mean that alone was a big change. Where we had lived before it was mainly just cousins and other families that lived on the same row and then moving into a close setting like this where there were 30 or 40 kids who lived on our block, it was a big change and it was a lot of fun. There were buildings on every flat spot here on the Fort. I would guess that now there are probably only a third to a quarter of the buildings remaining. Almost all of these buildings were vacant and of course they had to be explored, and a number of windows I’m sure got broken. In the woods down behind the camping spots there were still bayonet dummies and ropes in the trees and all the obstacle course. The entire obstacle course was still down there. For a ten year old boy and all of his buddies, we spent hundreds and hundreds of hours playing war and exploring buildings that were off limits. The Navy base on top of the hill where the radar stuff was was strictly off limits but that got explored also.
… there were no hazards other than falling off of some platform or rope rigging, so it was pretty safe. Fox holes were still dug in the brush. In fact, my dad, later on when he was in security, was chasing a runaway and fell in a fox hole and tore up his knee pretty badly and ended up having surgery. The whole hillside down through the woods was where they had combat training and so there were fox holes, bayonet dummies, all the things that a boy would like to have.
… You would get into a building that maybe you weren’t supposed to and you would find that when the military moved they left stuff behind — Army patches, not a bunch, but telegraph keys, my brother found a gas mask. I’m sure there are probably a lot of chemicals lying around too that we were probably exposed to…. asbestos, all the pipes were wrapped with asbestos and at that point when you’re playing you just grab a handful, pull some off the pipe and throw it and it would explode and make this nice puff. It was exposure to asbestos and stuff like that. But I don’t think that was really all that uncommon anywhere back in the 50s and early 60s. People weren’t aware of the danger.
… there’s North Beach and so we would go there. We could pretty much play on North Beach back in towards town. Saturday morning there’d be a group of guys either on bicycles or with BB guns or just headed out to the beach to go do something. We were building forts or having BB gun fights or bicycle racing or sneaking into places we weren’t supposed to be. We’d be gone all day, get back dinner time and then that’s when somebody’d spend the night or go spend the night somewhere else and be up and do it again Sunday morning and hopefully get the homework done on the weekend. It was freedom and I think a lot of my son’s big complaint is there’s no time to play. He is a very busy kid, organized basketball, organized soccer, all kinds of organized sports. His big complaint has always been, I don’t have time to play. When kids are unorganized they will be creative. We had a lot of that because there weren’t that many organized sports. There you had little league football and baseball but there wasn’t the structure that there is now. We would just go play, play at doing nothing.
… On the big hills alongside the cottages, the grass would get really dry. We had cardboard boxes and we’d slide down those hills onto the street when there was no traffic. There used to be a siren tower over by the USO building, it was a big tower right next to the maintenance building where they had a big crank siren when we first moved here. We got up there a couple times, set off the siren and then got out of there before we got caught. The balloon hangar (Mc Curdy Pavilion) had a metal ladder up the side and the big thing was to be brave enough to climb to the top of the sliding doors.”

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